In a major boost to the Congress, ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Tuesday won the floor test in the Uttarakhand Assembly, though the result will be officially known only at 10.30am on Wednesday.
The BJP quickly admitted defeat after 33 legislators reportedly voted for Rawat while the Opposition mustered only 28 votes in a House whose strength had been reduced from 72 to 62. The Speaker did not vote and nine Congress rebel legislators were not allowed to vote. Apparently, the sole nominated member also did not vote.
The Central government dismissed Rawat government on March 27 and cited mis-governance to impose President's Rule in the hill state. The Supreme Court monitored the voting and said it will announce the result on Wednesday. But within minutes after the floor test, the Congress sounded triumphant. A beaming Rawat didn't comment on the result but thanked the "Supreme Court, democratic forces, divine forces and the people of Uttarakhand" for supporting him.
Using words that made it very clear that he had won, he said: "Uttarakhand will be victorious tomorrow (Wednesday).” Tuesday's vote was called to prove whether or not Rawat enjoyed majority support after the defection by nine Congress legislators reduced his government to a minority in the 72-member House.
But the scales tiled in his favour when both the Uttarakhand High Court and the Supreme Court ruled that the rebel legislators cannot take part in the floor test. BJP member Ganesh Joshi conceded that his party had lost the vote. "The BJP couldn't defeat the Congress in the numbers game," he said.
The Congress now has 27 and the BJP 28 members in the House. But six other legislators, including two from the Bahujan Samaj Party, appeared to have voted for Rawat although the break-up is not clear.
In New Delhi, a jubilant Congress described its Uttarakhand win as a victory for democracy. Despite the floor test, Rawat's problems are not over yet. He has been summoned by the CBI to New Delhi to answer charges that he tried to bribe Congress rebels to return to his camp.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was among the first to react. "Uttarakhand floor test outcome is a huge setback to Modi government. Hope they will stop toppling governments now," he tweeted. Earlier on Tuesday, BSP leader Mayawati declared her party's support to the Congress when she said: "We have always opposed communal forces. Our two MLAs ... will vote for the Congress."